As I drove towards Hathersage in the Peak District with my mountain bike and borrowed tent stuffed into the boot of my car, little did I expect that the weekend was going to be the start of a sequence of events which would completely change the direction of my life.
I was meeting my sister for a weekend of mountain biking. We were part of a bigger group, total strangers to me but friends of my brother in law and they were all there for some grit climbing – crazy people!
They seemed a friendly enough bunch though, pitching my borrowed tent for me as I stood in the field scratching my head wondering where to start. Actually, they were probably just keen to get to the pub!
I got to know them better over a few drinks that evening. They were good fun but as far as I was concerned on another planet completely. I was terrified of heights. Climbing was not for me. No, no, no!
The next morning, we woke to drizzle and illness in the camp. My sister had to be taken home and suddenly I found myself abandoned with this mad group of people that I’d met only 12 hours before. Rained off the crag, they de-camped to the Outside Café in Hathersage for a leisurely breakfast. I tagged along.
When my brother in law returned, I was given the choice of a bike ride in the rain. However, being conscious that he’d anticipated a weekend of climbing, I figured it would be fun to join them at the Foundry in Sheffield instead. My plan was to watch and drink tea.
They had other ideas!
I still can’t explain how or why it happened, but later that day I found myself in a borrowed harness and boots, tied onto the end of a rope. I started climbing. I was hooked. The feeling of achievement and the love of moving on a climb was immediate.
The next day dawned bright and a trip to Stanage Edge was on the cards. There was no question in my mind. I was going with them to see whether climbing on rock could captivate me in the same way. It did!
The following week, I visited an outdoor shop in town and bought my own harness and boots. Non-climbing friends thought I was crazy, that it was a fad which would burn out leaving me with expensive kit stuffed in the back of a cupboard. They were wrong!
Once or twice a week after work, I would make an 80 mile round trip to climb. Most weekends were spent in the Peak District, camping (I finally bought my own tent and learned how to pitch it) and climbing with an incredible group of friends.
Eventually, through friends of friends I met my husband. His memorable chat up line was “can you twin rope belay?” and in response to my affirmative he dragged me off for a climb. It was the start of something special!
Whilst I have never professed to be the strongest, boldest or hardest climber and whilst at times I still have to battle my demons with exposure and heights, I can honestly say that that weekend in the Peak District when I first started climbing was a moment of impact in my life.
Most of my holidays since then have been climbing trips and I’ve visited some amazing places, sometimes with friends, sometimes as a quiet get away with my husband. I’ve loved the change in my lifestyle which came with climbing.
Fast forward more years than I care to remember and I’m now a freelance writer specialising in climbing, mountain biking and walking articles – and whilst climbing is no longer my only focus in the outdoors, it has always remained a part of my life. Long may that continue.
So here’s to crazy people everywhere…